Hope you are all well? Spring has sprung; the days are getting longer and warmer weather (hopefully) is on its way.
It’s National Gardening week, and I am so chuffed that I can now, in my best Pembrokeshire Welsh accent say “I declare the New Greenhouse OPEN ! ” Not because it’s National Gardening Week, but because Mark and I have finally completed the construction of it. We have even moved the water butt to attach another hose kit so that we can collect rainwater from both greenhouse roofs. As you can see from the photo there were a lot of panes of glass to install, sixty, in fact. It took three hours as the clips kept pinging off the glass and one of us would have to look for ages to find it. I am sure some of them are still in the Rose and Herb Garden.
We have put top soil and compost into the borders the path has been laid, the edging is done, and we have even erected the new shelving, the shelving was the easiest job out of everything. One of my aunties gave us a giant lightweight wooden lantern and we have hung it from one of the beams along with a glass wind chime from my mum. I don’t think they will stay there once the tomatoes and other veggies are in place, as, even being only five foot one and a bit, I keep banging my head on them.
As yet the part of the shelving is still in the old greenhouse as I have had so many seedlings to transplant, I am sort of moving things between them until I know what is going where and when. So far in the new greenhouse I have one set of shelves a mini spade, trowel , fork, and plant feed pellets, five pots of overwintering, soon-to-be-moved-out pots of Strawberry Sweetheart’s, seven bags of potatoes, two large blue terracotta pots of sunflower “Colour Parade” and stocks “Sugar and Spice.” I am wondering if this might be a good planting combination. I want something to take the attention away from the sunflower stalks for a while.
I am really looking forward to the T&M Sunflower competition, not that the blue pot combo will be entered as a photo, I have a totally different plan that I hope will work, but sorry, I can’t share that one with you! All of the above plants are being hardened off at the moment, but our weather is still a bit unpredictable. Last week we hit twenty two degrees Celsius only for it to drop to nine degrees by the end of the week. We haven’t had any frost but the winds have been blustery and cold.
After looking after me last month and doing the hard graft, last Saturday was a chance for Mark to do what he loves the most, joining his friends from the club on a metal detecting rally, this meant I had the garden to myself! Selfish I know, but I love this quiet time, just the birds singing, and insects buzzing, I spent a good half hour just walking around the garden, seeing what was in bloom, and what needed attention. I then decided to construct a pea wigwam using canes and string, the garden peas have really shot up. Next I transplanted some mini plugs and earthed up and fed the spuds. My friend Rachel arrived with a selection of tomatoes she grew from seeds, including White Opal, a wise man once said “A generous Gardener is never poor.” And I totally agree, so in return for her gift, she had a pot of baby lettuces from me. This wise man’s saying has now become a motto for me, I love sharing and swapping plants with people. For a long time I admired my next door neighbour’s poppies, one year he was getting rid of some them and he gave me a slab of the root cuttings, he said “I don’t know if they will grow my girl, but bury them in the ground and see what happens.” They did grow and they get stronger every year. What’s the best garden swap you have had?
I possibly may have germinated too many seeds, I have at least two hundred Amaranthus seedlings, I bought them from T&M a few years ago and they are beautiful. I love the burgundy leaves, and it’s worth growing them for the foliage alone, but come midsummer they will produce a soft feathery spike that can stand up to anything the weather throws at them. Each year I collect a spike of seeds and keep it to sow the following year. The seeds are loved by the birds too so I have to be quick. I held back and only planted around ten radishes; this is because I don’t know if I like them. I haven’t eaten them since I was a child and I was convinced the little red thing in the salad bowl was a cherry and I had to have it before my brothers, so I put the whole thing in my mouth and it practically blew my head off. We were having lunch with some people and I was too polite to spit it out. I never tried radish again, Mark likes them though so I am giving them a go.
I also have a second sowing of peas, fifty or so sunflowers, seven aubergines, and some Zinnias that I had free with a magazine. I also have 300 mini plugs. HELP! I am not very good at thinning out seedlings; I tend to keep them all potting them on and give them away when they are bigger.
I received five plug plants from Terri at T&M of Fuchsia Garden News. I potted them on straight away as they were so robust that the roots were trying to escape through the packaging almost. It’s quite exciting that there is a Fuchsia Festival, I have learned so much about these shrubs from the information on the website.
Writing this blog has made me realise I need a plan. Each evening after work I have spent an hour in the greenhouses potting on, watering, or plant labelling but it’s on the weekends that I really have to pull my socks up and do some serious work. I usually try to dedicate an afternoon just for gardening. My diary helps as it has a section to list my to-do tasks but I think a more detailed plan is needed, so a sheet of A4 paper and a pen is needed. Do you plan what to do in the greenhouse, or do you just get on with tasks in hand?
I am hoping that by this time next month I will have even more greenhouse news to share with you. Fingers crossed that the tomatoes are big enough to be put in their final beds, with their growing frames neatly installed, I hope that the aubergines have got bigger, that I have eaten my first lettuce leaves with radish or white onion and cheese sandwiches. The rhubarb whilst not in the greenhouse should be ready for pulling, and I can stew that to make a jelly or just have it with custard. This is why I love gardening, the anticipation of what’s to come. Is there anything you would like to see more or less of in my blogs? I love having you feedback, please send me pictures or comments on how your greenhouse/garden is doing. I would be really interested in what you have achieved.
Until next month,
Our 2014 plant trials produced some surprising results for our Petunias. Weather conditions really put them to the test with a frustrating mix of heat waves and summer storms but, they didn’t fail to impress.
Traditionally, petunias are the first plants to take a hit from poor British weather, especially from heavy rain. However, our robust petunias stood strong, and bounced right back after our summer downpours showing little signs of damage. They really are a must have plant for resilient summer displays!
With built in weather resistance and robust habit, our Petunia ‘Crazytunia’ Collection is a spectacular patio variety. Upright growth in never seen before colour combinations, they offer great weather resistance, flowering beautifully in pots, beds or borders, come rain or shine.
‘These stunning blooms that have lasted summer and had many comments from visitors, especially the Green with Envy and Starlight Blue which are still flowering in the garden come October’ Geoff Stonebanks, Driftwood.
Trailing ‘Surfinia’ Mixed has the longest trailing stems of any petunias! Surfinia is one of the world’s most popular trailing varieties and it is with reason. Known for their impressive flower power, weather resistance and colour ranger, this variety will provide outstanding displays from June to September.
I remember reading a blog from one of our customer trial members. Alison was not a fan of petunias, but being a trial member she grew what we gave handed to her and of course, you guessed it, we gave her Petunias! Not to our surprise Alison was converted, you can find out more here.
Why not try them, and give petunias a firm place in your garden.
There is nothing we love more than hearing customer success stories and seeing your delightful gardening photos via our Facebook and Twitter pages. So, when we got this letter from a very loyal customer we were overwhelmed and had to share it with you.
‘Over the past 20 years we have been a customer of Thompson & Morgan, we would like to show you the success of your business are achievements we have had as man and wife to prove your plants and seeds have been phenomenal and consistent’
Alma and her husband, who is 78 years young, have shared their love of gardening through growing T&M plants and entering numerous competitions. Here are just some of the prizes they have won;
1984 – 1st Place for best allotment (out of 31 sites)
2008 – National 1st place for best allotment in England run by Garden News
2008 – Kitchen Garden award for first Community Garden.
2008 – First in Black Country (Toby Inn competition for Healthy Foods)
2009 – Wolverhampton Gold Award at Britain in Bloom
2011-2012, 2014 – First in city and second in city 8 times.
Other shield and cups are won in local shows around the West Midlands.
It is wonderful to see that their love for gardening never dwindled, and at 78 years old they are still going strong. Thank you Alma for sharing your story with us.
If you have any gardening success stories we would love to hear them, firstname.lastname@example.org.
The world is your oyster when it comes to choosing companion plants to go alongside your fuchsias. The seasonal tender types blend so well with other summer bedding plants that you really are spoilt for choice. The same applies to the hardy types, which work well in combination with other shrubs and perennials in mixed borders and shrub plantings.
It is perhaps more important to think about other flower colours rather than the types of plant that you set with your fuchsias in container displays. While there is no right or wrong when it comes to using colour in the garden, the majority of fuchsias bloom in shades of pink, purple and white, and it pays to think of those colours when you choose your companion plants, particularly in the confines of a patio pot or hanging basket.
While petunias and geraniums are perfect basket partners for fuchsias, the wrong colour combination could detract from the display. The trick is to decide whether you want a contrasting or complimentary colour mix, or whether you want to go all out with a riot of mixed colours.
For kaleidoscopic colour, simply go for a different flower colour on each plant in your display. For contrasting and complimentary mixes, familiarise yourself with the colour wheel – contrasting pairings (like purple and yellow) are found on opposite sides of the wheel, while complimentary colours (like purple and blue) sit next to each other.
Top 5 container companions for fuchsia:
Busy Lizzie (New Guinea)
Established border fuchsias can display hundreds of flowers at any one time, so setting them with other flowering shrubs can lead to over-fussy displays. Companion selection in the border comes down to setting the right balance between foliage and flowers. There are two ways to go about this. If flowers are your thing, go for two thirds flowers and one third foliage (one foliage shrub for every two flowering shrubs). For a more natural look, reverse this ratio, opting for two thirds foliage and one third flowers (two foliage shrubs for every flowering shrubs).
Top 5 border companions for fuchsia:
Fatsia japonica (for foliage)
Choiysa ternate (for foliage)
Nandina domestica (for foliage and flowers)
Weigelia (for flowers)
Phygelius (for flowers)
This week’s been a real challenge on the allotment. Not only have we had some lovely sunny afternoons up here in Sheffield, but we’ve also had frost, rain and wind. LOTS of wind. Luckily, my greenhouse and shed are still standing. I can’t say the same for some of my fellow plot holders, in fact there is a pile of metal and plastic on one plot, it used to be a poly tunnel!
I love this time of year when the postman knocks on the door, it means I have plants arriving, and this week didn’t disappoint me!
I ordered a few plants and seeds, all from Thompson & Morgan, and I must say, everything arrived in top notch condition and the plants look really healthy. I had a selection on parcels arrive, including plug plants, potted plants and seed packets. All bar the pot plants are packaged so that they fit through the letter box, this really helps as I’m rarely in the house when the postman gets to my house.
I’m sometimes a dubious about getting plants through the post. I always think the plants are going to be weedy little things that no one wants, but the company can flog on line and send out to dis-appointed customers. Don’t get me wrong, I have had this happen before with a certain company, in fact I ordered some ‘Green Envy’ zinnia plugs for The Big Allotment Challenge (BAC). When they arrived, they were the weediest, straggly plants you have ever seen, totally unfit for purpose and a waste of money, and hence why I didn’t grow them for the show. The only thing they were fit for was the compost heap.
I’m glad to say, that experience did not involve T&M, and everything I’ve received from them has been great quality. The Geranium ‘Appleblossom’ arrived a couple of days ago and they are cracking plants. They’re well wrapped ad secured in a decent box, so I had no problems with damage in the post. I took them straight out of the package, gave them a drink and stood them in the greenhouse, where they are doing great. If you are wondering what the flower on them looks like, you’ll find it on the front of the T&M catalogue you got through the post a couple of months ago.
I also received carnation and dianthus plug plants, both came in the letterbox friendly box and included a great booklet on how to care for and get the best from your plants. I’ve chosen ‘Crimson Rim’ as its go stunning pale flowers with a deep red, almost purple, rim on each petal. It’ll be a real eye catcher in the garden, and in any arrangements I make this year. Apparently, it also has that nice carnation smell, spicy cloves. I can’t wait for those beauties to bloom.
I’ve decided to have a go with some heritage seeds from big seed companies this year, and thought I’d give T&M ‘The Amateur’ tomato a go. It’s a bush variety that’s a good cropper outdoors. I really hope this is the case, I have so many tomatoes planned for in the greenhouse, I won’t have room for any more.I’m starting them off in the propagator, and then leaving them on the windowsill until the middle/end of April, when I’ll transfer them to the greenhouse staging for a couple of weeks. After they’ve hardened off, they are going to go either in pots on the patio, or in the open ground on the allotment. I’ll keep you posted on their progress.
My niece and nephew love sunflowers. We always try and grow a really big whopper, but this year we’ve also gone for some smaller, more manageable ones that are happy in pots. T&M ‘Solar Flash’ is the one that I grew on BAC last year. It’s the one that helped me win Jonathan’s massive floral arch challenge in the final. This plant is great; it produces a small bush with lots of gorgeous mini sunflowers that have that orange/red ring towards the centre of the bloom. I grew them in old chicken manure buckets, I just made drainage holes in the bottom and made sure I watered and fed them, that’s it! Then I was rewarded with loads of stunning flowers, which looked lovely on the plot, but amazing in arrangements. I even took a bunch home and they lasted over a week in the vase. A proper little performer!
Geraniums are my new guilty pleasure this year. Not only did I order the ‘Appleblossom’ ones, I also thought I’d try the ‘Spanish Wine Burgundy’. They are the typically Mediterranean flowers I always see when I visit my friend in Spain. They have those gorgeous frilly dark red petals on top of those almost lily pad leaves. I’ve potted them up in 9cm pots in the greenhouse and I’m just waiting for the weather to pick up, before I plant them in nice little terracotta pots on the patio. Just call it Casa Rob!
Here they are in the greenhouse, with some ‘Scents of Summer Pink Peony’ Dianthus. I ordered these as they are a hardy perennial and will provide me with masses of lovely pink flowers, year after year. So that’s ideal as I’ll have them in the garden and for cutting. They have a more domed and rounded flower than your average pink or carnation, so I’m hoping they will be a talking point on the plot,as everyone will want to know what variety they are.
It’s time for me to brave the weather and go and make sure the greenhouse is still standing, it’s blowing a wholly out there.
I hope some of the plants I’ve mentioned have inspired you to try ‘postage plants’, its a great way to get unusual plants, and less hassle that fighting your way around a garden centre on a Sunday afternoon. Don’t forget, give it a grow!
Thompson & Morgan April Fool a bridge too far, but Ipswich Station is set to sizzle this summer with begonia basket display.
Covering a 1km road bridge with hanging baskets might be a little ambitious, even for one of the UK’s largest horticultural mail order suppliers, but we do want to give something back to the community as we mark 160 years of business in Ipswich. Aiming to brighten the daily commute for thousands of Ipswich locals this summer, we will instead be decorating Ipswich Train Station with 24 large hanging baskets filled with our best selling Begonia ‘Apricot Shades’.
We’ve teamed up with Activgardens to get the baskets ready for display in June, donating all the plants, baskets, compost and feed needed to get the job done. The local charity, part of ActivLives, operates in the walled garden at Chantry Park, offering work experience and vocational courses to students with severe barriers to learning.
Later this month Thompson & Morgan staff will join students at the walled garden to get the baskets planted and underway. They’ll be grown on by the students in the charity’s glasshouse until they are at the perfect stage for instant impact at the station in June.
To get your own garden set for summer visit.